Reality, Pre-TV

    There are, of course, some postcards that are rarer than others.  But there is one sort of postcard that is so rare that some people can’t be bother with it, while other people can’t get enough.  This is known in the trade as an RPPC, or Real Photo Post Card.  (The whole argument over whether “postcard” is one word or two is a whole nother blog.)

    The Rppc is a postcard which has been made by printing a photograph directly on a postcard back, generally in small quantities, for some family or group and not intended for mass distribution.  The following, for example, is NOT an RPPC, even if it is a Real Post Car with a Real Photo.

    That was printed in the millions on a printing press.  A real RPPC is generally a family snapshot which has been dignified with a form that allows it to be sent through the mail, like this.

    Soial historians especially find these fascinating, as they freeze a moment in time, and give us a picture of a person or place of little interest, in their time, to the general public.  Maybe a hundred copies, at most, were made, and a lot of those will have disappeared over time.  They can provide a unique look into our past, as well as providing us with maddening questions if, as often happens, there is simply no message to explain what’s going on, either because the card was never mailed, or because the sender and recipient knew what was shown, and didn’t need to have it explained.  Take the case of Mamma and Gertrude.

    So I am assuming the horse is named Gertrude, but can we be sure of that?  And what was the occasion?  And why…what….

    Who ARE these men?  Where are they?  What was the occasion?

    And is grandma holding up her granddaughter?  Or is this an early ventrilogquist with her dummy?

    How did this couple meet?  Is this the only picture they had taken together?  There MUST be a story, but what is it?

    Of course, some of the RPPCs show more eternal photos, where we know what’s happening just by the poses and garments, even if we don’t know the names.  You will find RPPCs made up after First Communions, commencement cdeeremonies, and weddings (handy for those thank you notes?)

    Sometimes a person just wanted to show off a new hat

    Or fancy outfits (an RPPC could be taken in a photo studio: this window is frankly fake, but it does its job as a frame, and probably did so for dozens of couples even without funny hats.)

    Or just as evidence that one did put on a suit occasionally.

    An rppc was perfect for sending out pictures of the new kitten

    Or of the kids, whether they enjoyed the camera

    Were wary of it

    Disgruntled by it

    Or really, really wanted to be somewhere else.

    Whatever the intent, or the effect on the intended audience, we, decades later, see a family photo that somehow escaped the album by being turned into a postcard.  The moment is preserved for future generations, and perhaps forever, even if the subject of the photo, like this little boy lovingly dressed by his mother, may have regretted it later on.

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